No room for high-flyers: Over 14,000 top pupils to be left disappointed as Oxbridge applications increase

Figures come as Oxbridge snubs opportunity to have more places available to would-be students through the clearing system

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The Independent Online

More than 14,000 high flying teenagers expected to get three top grade A-level passes next week have been turned down by Oxford and Cambridge.

Competition for places is tighter this year with Cambridge University revealing it has received nearly 450 applications this year than in 2002.

The figures show it has received 16,145 applications compared to 15, 701 last year- but has only made offers to 4,138 students. C Academics expect the mixture of students to be similar to last year when there were 9, 832 applications from UK students.

Oxford said it could not yet give details of this year’s applications - but expects them to be broadly similar to 2012 when there were 17,241 applicant - 11,832 of them from the UK - and 3.233 acceptances.

The vast majority of the UK applicants will have put in for Oxbridge places on the basis of predictions they would get three top grade passes (either at least three A grade in the case of Oxford or two A’s and an A* for Cambridge).

The figures come at a time when universities are expecting to have more places available to would-be students through the clearing system - largely as a result of the Government’s decision to allow them to expand provided they take in students with at least an A and two B grade passes at A-level.

Neither Oxford nor Cambridge are planning to take advantage of the new regime to expand their student numbers - believing their current size and intake level contributes to their world-wide reputation for excellence.

A spokeswoman for Cambridge University said: “The university seeks the ablest and best-qualified students with the greatest potential from every background and every part of the UK.

“Admissions decisions are based on students’ ability, commitment and their potential to achieve.  The success rate of suitably qualified applicants is broadly the same regardless of where in the UK they are from.

“Our outreach goal is to ensure that any student with the ability, passion and commitment to apply to Cambridge has a clear picture of what the university can offer them and receives all the support necessary for them to best demonstrate their potential.”

Figures show the number of overall university applications through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has increased this year compared to 2012 - the first year that the new fees regime of charging up to £9,000 a year for courses came in. They showed in June that there had been 637, 500 applications compared with 618, 250 the previous year.  The level, though, has not increased to the record high in 2011 of 670,000 - when thousands of teenagers decided to forgo their gap year in order to beat the new fees structure.

Some academics argue that one of the reasons for the increased number of applications to Cambridge is that today’s students are more anxious to seek value for money for the courses they enlist on - and are thus aiming higher. Other universities, less selective, may struggle to fill all their places, it is claimed.

This year will see a growing number of Russell Group universities - those who are amongst the most research intensive higher education institutions in the UK - entering the clearing system for the first time in years as some struggled to fill places last year when the Government first allowed universities to expand their intakes (then limiting it to taking on students with three straight A grade passes).

Universities will also face increased competition from overseas as several institutions abroad - particularly in the Netherlands - have relaxed their application deadlines so they can recruit UK students after they have received their A-level results.

Number crunching: Oxbridge in numbers

16,145  The number of applications received by Cambridge University this year, 444 up on 2012. Oxford does not have figures but the figure is likely to be similar to last year when it received 17,343 applicants.

4,138 The number of offers made to students by Cambridge.  In the final analysis, it admits about 3,400 undergraduates a year.

637,500 The number of applications received by UCAS for university places this autumn - it is up on last year’s figure of 618,000 but down on the 2011 figure of 670,000.

25,000 The number of places on offer through the clearing system on A-level day last year.  More places are expected to be on offer this year.